New Social Services Are Coming to Old Church Health Buildings

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Sr. Maureen Griner and Tracy Burgess of the Dorothy Day House hold a photo of  one of three former Church Health properties they will buy and renovate for the families they serve. The mantle behind them showcases families who came in homeless, and left with employment and housing. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Sr. Maureen Griner and Tracy Burgess of the Dorothy Day House hold a photo of one of three former Church Health properties they will buy and renovate for the families they serve. The mantle behind them showcases families who came in homeless, and left with employment and housing.


Church Health and St. John’s Methodist Church have combined efforts to ensure that the area west of the intersection at Peabody and Bellevue will remain dedicated to social services, following the departure of Church Health as the health organization moves to its new location in Crosstown Concourse.

For years, Church Health leased their buildings from St.John's for a substantially low cost. Ahead of the anticipated move, St. John's and Church Health made a decision.


Rather than yielding their midtown properties to the market, the church has instead opted to lease their buildings to two social service organizations, the Dorothy Day House (DDH) and Alliance Healthcare Services.


Church Health’s director of communications, Marvin Stockwell, said the decision to make their properties easily attainable to the two organizations was calculated and intentional.


“We've had an internal working committee for three to four years, and we want to leave this corner dedicated to the common good,” said Stockwell. “We didn’t want to just leave it to market forces.”


The committee Stockwell refers to was comprised of St. John's, Church Health, and Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, and representatives from each organizations spent a year determining the best uses of the property by researching Memphis’ greatest needs. Their research produced three focuses to address; food security, women and children, and behavioral health.

St. John's already runs a food service ministry, but behavioral health and services for homeless women and children still remained.


"Obviously helping the homeless is a huge need in Memphis. And, behavioral health especially needs to be addressed,” said Stockwell, who noted that he believes that behavioral health as a public need is just now starting to come to the forefronts of people's minds. 


As a not-for-profit behavioral health treatment center, Alliance is one of the few such facilities in Shelby County to accept TennCare, therefor one of the few options for low-income individuals seeking help for substance abuse or mental illness, or both.


Alliance will move into Church Health’s clinical space fairly soon, according to Stockwell.


DDH, an independently funded organization that helps transition homeless families back into society, will slowly acquire and remodel three Church Health properties, one house at a time as funding allows.


Their current facility has the capacity to help three smaller families simultaneously. In the ten years that DDH has been operating out of a large residential house in Midtown, 45 families have graduated to permanent housing and jobs. If DDH expands by three houses, ten more years could see hundreds of families transition to stability.


The house’s executive director, Sr. Maureen Grinter, said that since the organization is solely funded by individual donors and no federal or state funding, it’s not yet known how long acquiring and renovating the buildings will take.

Stockwell said that St. John's will hold the buildings for them until DDH is able to raise the funds to buy them.


When thinking about the opportunity and timing of the DDH expansion, Griner references the house's namesake, who was a social activist and journalist that opened up similar institutions in her lifetime.

"Dorothy Day said, 'If you put out a pot of coffee, and a pot of soup on the stove, God will take care of the rest."



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